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Know (The Way You Lie)

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Before she meets Akande Ogundimu, Doomfist the Successor, Sombra is not entirely certain what she ought to think of him; this is a rarity in and of itself, given that information is her purview, and in her line of work uncertainty is an anathema. On paper, she ought not to like Akande—but, then, on paper she ought not to like any of her friends. Employees and affiliates of Talon are not well known for their likeability, after all. Nonetheless, she has found her place among them, has found friends. Why should Akande be any different?

(In any case, appearances on paper are often deceiving. Sombra, more than anyone, ought to know this.)

So it is that when she meets Akande, Sombra does so with a relatively open mind, more than willing to look for the best in him, given his friendship with Gabriel. Even knowing what he has done, she withholds judgement, gives him the benefit of the doubt, for she knows well how circumstances can force one’s hand.

Despite this, she dislikes Akande instantly.

Such is not to say she does not respect him; she does, and immensely—but understanding his capabilities, appreciating that he is a master strategist and a powerful ally, is not the same as liking him. If anything, it manifests as a keen awareness that he is not to be crossed (or, not lightly, anyway; there is no one whom she would never cross, if the need arose).

Knowing that he is as dangerous as she, as clever, she does not trust him.

(Never mind that she does not trust anyone. There are people whom she at least pretends to trust, or thinks she would like to, if the world were not the way it is. Not Akande. He, she will never trust, if only because he is the most likely of anyone to discover any of her duplicities, and therefore the largest threat to her continued wellbeing and ability to operate within Talon.)

None of this is to say, of course, that she is unwilling to work with him, or even that she dislikes working with him, particularly. Above all else, Akande is competent, and so she need not worry, at least, that anything will go awry on their missions (unless, of course, she wants it to), and he is not unfriendly, even if the two of them do not get along. She would work with nearly anyone, if it suited her, if it would help her to meet her ends, and he is no great trouble to work with.

Still, she does not like him.

Never is she hostile towards him—she returns his routine courtesies, would not risk alienating him and furthermore doubts she would accomplish anything by doing so. Yet, unlike her other coworkers, Akande is not her friend.

He tells her as much, in so many words, when her routine needling goes a bit too far.

"I know," says she, because she does. Never has she believed that they are—he is not Gabriel, is not Widowmaker.

(And Widowmaker is not Amélie, as Sombra is not Olivia. Gabriel, too, is not Commander Reyes, if not quite in the same way as she and Amélie. But Akande is Akande, always.)

So never would Sombra claim Akande as a friend, for despite being similar on paper—and what a quaint term that is—he is nothing like her, or her friends.

Why? The part of her which is always questioning even herself asks, What makes him so different?

Yes, he is a killer, but so is she; he works for Talon, but so does she; he breaks the law when it pleases him, when convenient, and she does the same. But one is not the other.

She is no Akande, to take another's name, another's mantle, and use it to her own ends. Sombra is Sombra and there will be no Sombra the Successor. Taking a name, however, does not mean taking a legacy, and he has built his own, just as she has—she cannot deny a similarity there.

Why does she dislike him, then?

Perhaps, she thinks, it is the killing. Rarely does he express remorse when doing so, if ever—not the way Sombra does, killing only when necessary and remembering, as she can, those whose lives have incidentally (or, not incidentally, for the taking of a life is never quite incidental) been lost in the pursuit of something greater. Gabriel, too, she has seen hesitate, although he does not do so when others are present, does not do so when he thinks she can (will) see. His encounter with the Shrike and Soldier: 76 is proof enough of that.

Gabriel feels far more than his Reaper persona allows him to express, and although there are people he recognizes must be eliminated in order to further his goals, although he accepts that necessity perhaps a bit more readily than Sombra, he is not the remorseless killer his name would suggest.

Unlike Sombra, unlike Gabriel, Akande does not seem to regret that he must kill, and Sombra can almost use such a thing to justify her feelings but for one thing, but for one lingering question:

If it were the killing that repulsed her, however, would she not hate Widowmaker?

(It goes without saying that she does not hate Widowmaker. In the beginning, she may have thought she did, may almost have wanted to but now—now, knowing her, Sombra could never hate Widowmaker. Not after all that has happened.)

Even when Widowmaker kills without remorse, even when she implies that she gains pleasure by doing so, Sombra cannot hate her, not like her morals might once have demanded she did; what Sombra feels, instead of repulsion, she is not sure. It is not pity, not quite, for no matter what happened to Widowmaker, she does not want pity, does not conduct herself in such a manner that invites it. What Sombra feels for Widowmaker is complicated, but it is not a negative feeling, in spite of the fact that Widowmaker is the least remorseful of all of them.

After all, if Sombra were only ever to feel things by killing, she rather suspects that she would develop a taste for bloodshed too, and what Widowmaker feels—or cannot feel—is hardly her fault. Widowmaker did not ask to be made, did not ask that she become the woman she is, did not ask to become a perfect weapon, did not adopt a quest or take up a mantle. How can Sombra blame her for being a victim of circumstance, for existing as she was made to?

No one made Akande into the man he is, no one forced his hand; while he was led down his path by Doomfist the Scourge, Doomfist the Successor was hardly a child at the time, was hardly in a position of vulnerability. Akande was wealthy—is wealthy—successful, and loved, and despite this, he chose to become the man that he is, chose to force upon others the sort of conflicts which took from him his arm and with it, his passions.

Gabriel did not choose to become Reaper, did not cede his Strike Commander position willingly. When he was at his weakest, he was tampered with, was experimented on, was made into something not wholly human—and, in his own eyes, less than human. Sombra might not agree with his methods, but she does understand his goal: to stop the people and circumstances that created him, not only for revenge but to spare others the same fate. Even at his worst, she could never call Gabriel evil, regardless of the many, many bad things he has done.

So, too, was Widowmaker made. Against her will she was taken, was modified, was conditioned to be something, someone, else. Perhaps Sombra does not believe that she ought to live as she does, accepting her fate, perhaps Sombra thinks that, if circumstances were different, Widowmaker might find a way to—not reverse, but live with her conditioning, and to live differently by so doing. But Sombra will not judge her, cannot; Widowmaker is a victim, even if she would hate for Sombra to say such, of circumstance if nothing else, and far be it from Sombra to blame her for that.

(Privately, of course, she believes, and will continue to that all that was made can be unmade, and she thinks, hopes, that there might be some way not to unmake Widowmaker, to unmake Gabriel, but to reverse, at least, some of the effects they have suffered from being made. To unmake them entirely would be a betrayal, now that she has befriended them, would be only a further violation of their personhood, but she wishes—she wishes that they did not have to suffer, being as they are.)

But what of herself? No one experimented on Sombra, or, not without her permission, her consent, her instruction, no one told her to undergo cybernetic augmentation and to become the woman she currently is, Olivia was not killed, like Amélie, was not torn from her like Strike Commander, was something she relinquished, something she buried as if it were shameful, and now Olivia may exist in another time, another place, but that is Sombra's own doing.

Never was Sombra forced to become the woman she was, never was she compelled to take up a name that was not, at the time, her own, and she chooses every day to continue to be Sombra, just as Doomfist chooses to continue to be himself, when she could, in theory, choose otherwise, could try to become Olivia again or, better, remake herself entirely, become someone new and clean and innocent.

Like Akande, she has the resources to leave, financial and otherwise, like him, she could exist with the rest of world, human and omnic alike, could lead an ordinary life. No one forces her to pursue the truth, forces her into situations in which she must kill in order to continue a quest which has no foreseeable end and an even more uncertain outcome; Sombra chooses to do what must be done, for no one forces her to do anything she does not want, not any more. Sombra makes the rules, defines the morals, chooses the goals—everything about her situation is within her control, and yet still she chooses what she has, willingly engages in armed warfare and aligns herself with the likes of Talon.

Who is she to judge Akande? Who is she to judge anyone?

(It is all well and good for her to play by her own rules, to be governed only by her own morality, but that does not mean that others are so, and she knows that in the minds of many she is damnable.)

Neither Sombra nor Akande was made, she thinks, no more so than they make themselves, by their daily decisions.

It may be true that Akande lost his arm, in the aftermath of the Omnic Crisis, and with that he lost his ability to fight, to pursue his passion and continue to compete, but the loss of an arm is no great thing, is hardly atypical in a post-Omnic Crisis world. Most people are missing something, be it a limb, a relative, a home. Sombra herself lost her parents in the Omnic Crisis, and like Akande, she was shaped by the loss, was forced to adapt to survive, to become better, brighter, to unmake Olivia and make Sombra, who is enhanced cybernetically and too clever by half.

Perhaps she proves Akande's point—both of them were transformed by their losses, were broken by conflict and rebuilt themselves to be stronger, not unlike their opponents in the Omnic Crisis. They innovated, and became something new, something better. If Sombra had never lost her parents, she would likely still be living in Dorado with them, would be married to someone, perhaps, and be settled down, comfortable. Without her loss, she might never have had cause to discover what it is she is capable of, might never had needed to become the best hacker in the world, might never have been pushed to be better, to be smarter, to be more than just content.

In that, Akande is right, conflict drove her, forced her to adapt and to overcome the challenges the Omnic Crisis set before her.

He, too, was changed by warfare, was put into a position where he could not use his unique skillset as he had before, and, when he found a new outlet for his intelligence, his strategic brilliance, his martial prowess—well, Sombra cannot say she approves, but she supposes it is better than if he had done nothing at all, after losing his arm. With his arm, he would not use his talents to shape the course of history, would only be the heir to—

Well.

Here is a difference, after all.

Akande is not Sombra; what he lost, his ability to pursue his passion for martial arts, is not comparable to her loss, is not at all comparable to losing her parents, her home, her everything. What is more, his family, and families like it, created the circumstances that led to the Omnic Crisis, for they are arms dealers and war profiteers.

A man is not his family, perhaps, is more than the sum of what made him, but Akande never rebuked that legacy, still benefits from it—and here, a connection for her web: conflict makes Akande all the richer, even as he says it betters humanity.

Although she cannot deny that the Omnic Crisis pushed her to become better, to do more, she also cannot ignore that it killed her family, did nothing to better the conditions of those in Los Muertos; if anything, conflict weakened most of those she knew, broke them or killed them or took everything from them, until it did not matter any longer what it was they gained in character, in abilities, for nothing could outweigh their losses.

It ought to feel like a victory, to realize this, ought to feel like a vindication, for here is something Sombra can dislike Akande for that does not extend to herself, to her friends. People like Akande created Gabriel, created Widowmaker—ah, but here is the pyrrhic part: people like Akande created Sombra.

If she acknowledges that she is different from him because he creates conflicts, and she was created by a conflict, she must acknowledge, too, that perhaps—perhaps she does not control everything, in her little world. Perhaps she cannot.

(That, more than anything, is why will not ever come to like Akande; being in control of herself, of her situation, is the only thing that makes Sombra feel safe, is the only way she can stave off the fear that again, she will lose everything, again, her world will be taken from her. By existing near her, Akande is a constant reminder that the rules she has constructed to protect herself are as intangible as the codes she breaks.)

"I know," says she, "You're not my friend," and her tone alone makes the condemnation clear.